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PP, ACLU say new parental consent law still unconstitutional

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It seems that as long as there are anti-abortion advocates to lobby for new "parental consent" abortion laws, there will be Idaho legislators willing to give their own consent to those laws. Twice in the last five years, and already once previously this year, national courts struck down the Idaho Legislature's attempts to require parental permission when doctors perform abortions on minors in cases of medical emergency. Last week in a Boise District Courtroom, the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parent of Idaho argued that the third and latest of these laws should face the same fate as its predecessors.

The law in question differs only slightly from previous parental consent legislation-mainly, the words "sudden," "unexpected" and "abnormal" have been removed from the definition of a "medical emergency"-but a few of the groups' objections still carry through. Namely, under the new law, signed by Gov. Dirk Kempthorne on April 14, a doctor is required to immediately notify a minor's parents after performing an abortion for their daughter, no matter the circumstances. Also, each abortion will be subject to its own judicial investigation, to ensure that a "medical emergency" had taken place. The plaintiffs argued that these caveats compromise the confidentiality of teen patients, violating their Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process by containing vague and/or conflicting terms about prohibited or required behaviors. They also told courts that the law does not adequately protect teens who, for reasons of personal safety, cannot inform their parents about an abortion.

"It is mind boggling that the state is indifferent to the fact that this law is unconstitutional and dangerous," said Alan Herzfeld, cooperating counsel for the ACLU. "The state cannot force teens seeking an abortion to obtain written consent from a parent without providing a confidential alternative to protect teens who can't involve a parent in their decision. This law does not provide that protection."

As of press time, a federal bill, co-sponsored by Idaho Reps. Butch Otter and Mike Simpson, which would charge any adult found to have driven a minor across state lines to escape the grasp of laws like Idaho's, was still waiting on a vote in the Senate. Planned Parenthood of Idaho President Rebecca Poedy has told BW that she and the ACLU are "very confident" that the previous court rulings will stand concerning the new law, meaning that the federal bill would not have to apply here.

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